If you’ve ever had to get out of your car at the roadside, you’ll know what a hostile place it can be. It’s no exaggeration to say that for some people it can be deadly. To raise awareness about this, we at Green Flag have come together with the AA and RAC to support the ‘Slow down, move over’ campaign.
We’re asking drivers to pay more attention to what’s going on at the side of the road. We all know how easy it can be to have our attention diverted when driving. Whether it’s by something interesting on the radio or pondering a problem at work, we don’t always think about what’s going on outside our own little bubble.
Slow down, move over campaign in detail
This campaign is urging drivers to be more aware of what’s happening beside the road. If they see someone’s stopped, we’d like drivers to simply slow down and move over. It’s an easy habit to get into, it takes seconds to do but it could save someone’s life.
As head of Service Delivery – Rescue for Green Flag, I’m possibly more aware than most how dangerous it is by the side of the road. I’ve heard countless tales of near misses from our technicians who’ve been working on customers’ vehicles by the road. There have even been cases where technicians at the roadside have sadly paid the ultimate price.
It’s easy to understand how. Even the smallest vehicle passing by at a relatively modest speed punches a big enough hole in the air to ruffle your clothes. When lorries rush past, the draught they create at motorway speeds is sufficient to pull a fully-grown man into the carriageway. That can happen in the light, when the weather’s good. If it’s dark, windy, raining or foggy, things get even more treacherous beside the road. Yet those are the conditions our technicians regularly go to work in to rescue our members.
Why we think it’s time to act
The reason we’ve decided it’s time to act with the ‘Slow down, move over’ campaign is that positive steps must be taken. If they aren’t, the number of accidents at the roadside is only going to increase. The vehicles and the journeys on our roads goes up relentlessly every year.
The new generation of smart motorways spreading throughout the country play a part too. During peak hours, these can turn the hard shoulder into a ‘live’ lane. Break down away from a refuge area and you could be stranded in a lane that others may be expecting to drive in. And that makes you and whoever comes to your rescue even more vulnerable than in other roadside situations.
At the beginning of October 2018, we along with the AA and RAC wrote to government to highlight the problem. The aim of our joint letter to Jesse Norman, under secretary of state for transport, was to alert ministers to a situation that will get worse without a culture change.
In states across the US, it’s the law that when you approach emergency or breakdown vehicles that are stopped with their lights flashing, you should pull over and slow down. Where possible, the law says give a lane’s space and slow to around 20mph lower than the speed limit, depending on the state.
A common sense request
It’s viewed as being such an important contribution towards saving lives that the police enforce the law rigorously, regularly handing out $200 (£156) fines to anyone who flouts it. Currently we’re not asking for that. We’d like drivers to comply voluntarily with something that we think is a perfectly reasonable, common sense request.
It’s also important that any driver who’s broken down takes as many safety precautions as possible. Where possible they should leave the vehicle through the passenger side and stand behind any barriers or on banking a safe distance away from the live lanes. Read more about how to stay safe when you break down here.
However, our technicians who attend breakdowns often don’t have any choice but to work next to the carriageway. Just imagine for a moment that whoever is at the side of the road is your partner, your brother, sister or one of your best friends. You’d want people to slow down if they were passing them to make it as safe as possible. When you see the flashing lights of a recovery vehicle it means that someone will be working in the area up ahead so again, slow down and move over. As drivers we should create an environment that’s as safe as it can be for everyone.
Damon Jowett is head of Service Delivery – Rescue for Green Flag
2 comments on “Expert comment: Why the Slow down, move over campaign makes sense”
“There have even been cases where technicians at the roadside have sadly paid the ultimate price.” Years back an RAC man was killed when his dark blue van was run into on the hard shoulder of a motorway. That was why the RAC van colour was changed from royal blue to orange.
A friend was between two cars stationary on the hard shoulder of a motorway (one broken down, the other having stopped to help) when a third vehicle ploughed into the rear stationary one. My friend had one leg amputated below the knee, and was at the risk of losing the other one as well.
Why so many drivers drift onto the hard shoulder I do not know. But painting the line between lane one and the hard shoulder fluorescent yellow, and putting yellow cat’s eyes there too might reduce the number of incidents.
For the DfT to call motorways without hard shoulders “SMART” is an insult to every driver and every passenger on our roads. The correct word is “CHEAP”. I use the M3 on average once a month. It is no surprise to see vehicles in the refuge bays on the section with no hard shoulder. And the DfT is going to make parts of the M4 “SMART”?
Good luck with the campaign but I doubt it will work. The plain facts are, there are so many inconsiderate drivers out there and no amount of policing will change things.
Personally, I always slow down and move into the next lane (if possible) when I see a stranded vehicle but that’s not always easy on a busy motorway. I do the same for cyclists, dog walkers, joggers etc but despite the risks, some drivers will squeeze past a cyclist even when the road width is seriously compromised by oncoming vehicles. In fact, I was out dog walking the other day on a quiet country lane with no paths, two cars approached from different directions and the car that should have given way didn’t, instead his wing mirror clipped my arm on its way through and JUST missed the dog. When I demonstrated he just stuck his finger up – that’s what you are dealing with.
Bottom line – any campaign is better than nothing.